It’s an undeniable fact of life that geese are colossal arseholes. They waddle around with an uncaring swagger, aggressively assault any living being that isn’t another goose and generally just act like douchebags. The cleverly titled Untitled Goose Game lets you be a goose and wreak havoc upon an idyllic little town filled with people just going about their days. Little do they know what awaits them in this absolutely fantastic little indie game.
The game opens with you calmly swimming down a stream before landing on a nearby bank. There’s a little picnic setup next to the water just tempting a naughty goose with its placement. Perhaps geese and gamers have something in common because I immediately dragged the sandwiches and other picnic goodies into the stream and then swam around honking proudly. I didn’t need to do this. But I was roleplaying being a goose, and I felt like a goose would do that. To be fair, I’d probably do that to.
It’s the attention to detail when it comes to the goose’s animations that make me want to roleplay a feathery bastard. The way you swagger around, the gentle patter of your feet and the way your head automatically swings around to glare balefully at the nearest human is all so amazingly lifelike. I can’t help but thing the developers spent an unhealthy amount of time staring at geese and examining footage of how they move. There’s even a dedicated button for spreading your wings which serves no gameplay purpose but that I found myself doing constantly because it felt right. Is there a human staring at me? Spread those wings and unleash a miffed honk! And yes, there’s a button just for honking, which is handy for scaring people or celebrating a victory.
But what are you actually doing? Basically you’re looking to complete your to-do list of cheeky, awful things. In the first area, for example, you need to sneak into the garden, get the poor gardener wet, set up a picnic and more. If you manage to complete enough of the list a final goal will pop up and tackling that will open up the next area of the quiet, beautiful little village for you to terrorize.
And how beautiful it is. I adore the art style that developer House House chose for their project. It’s simple yet striking, and is backed up by a soundtrack that is entirely composed of a single piano that jumps between relaxing tones and bouncy comedy. Great stuff.
It’s basically a puzzle game, just with more feathers. How can you steal a child’s toy plane, sneak it into a store and force the kid to buy it back? What’s the best way to get into a pub? By hiding in a box Metal Gear Goose style or by untying the bouncer’s shoelaces? Or get an old man to fall over? These are the questions Untitled Goose Game asks, and each little puzzle tends to have a couple of ways it can be solved. Discovering how you can pull off daring heists and otherwise ruin everyone’s day is absolutely hilarious fun. At one point I had to steal a radio but every time I picked it up it would turn on, alerting the nearby human to my nefarious plan. He’d come running over and shoo me away, and I’d extend my wings and give him an annoyed honk. To my delight I discovered that by dragging the radio into water it would short circuit, and so I could then get it out of the garden with minimal hassle. This isn’t some giant sandbox filled with solutions, but there’s enough stuff to tinker with that experimenting feels rewarding and enjoyable.
You can’t actually fail in any way, either. Just waiting around will result in all the humans picking up key items and returning them to where they need to be. It’s impossible to completely lose anything you might need, and even if you’re spotted the NPCs will just shoo you away. To them you’re nothing more than an irritating goose and so the most threatening foe you face is a lady with a broom. It makes the whole game serene and relaxing. There’s no rush, no threat of failure or death, just some great slapstick comedy and puzzles to be completed.
Not all of the puzzles are great to solve, mind you. There are a couple of moments of obtuse logic that left me scratching my head with my wing, wondering what the hell I was meant to be doing. But the good news is you never get stuck for too long and either a good comb around the environment or just watching an NPCs behaviors will usually reveal the answers.
There’s a good use of iconography, too. Exclamation points, question marks and specific items will appear in bubbles above character’s heads which reveal what they’re thinking. Again, this can provide some hints on how to progress as well as simply inform you about what’s going on, like whether a pesky human is looking for that item you left lying around to lure them away.
Really there is only one big issue with Untitled Goose Game: it’s short. Like, really short. You’ll likely finish it in around 1-2 hours, possibly 3-hours if you spend some time just messing around to see what happens. Upon completing the final brilliant sequence you’re given a new to-do list of harder tasks and even time limits in an effort to give you a reason to go through the game again. It’s a nice idea, although I didn’t feel very compelled to tackle the new objectives. The charm is in the first play through. The big question, though, is whether the game actually should have been any longer. It’s tough to say because as genuinely great as Untitled Goose Game is to play I’m not sure it could have supported a longer runtime.
My review was done on the Nintendo Switch Lite because this feels like a perfect portable game. It ran perfectly with nary a drop in framerate or visual quality. The text can be a little small on the to-do list though, so I’d recommend using the handy zoom function.
There’s really little else to say about Untitled Goose Game. It’s short and sweet, a near perfect little indie game that doesn’t outstay its welcome. The puzzles are a joy to solve, the animations are superb and the whole concept feels novel and exciting. This is the best kind of indie game, one that offers up something different than the normal big-budget triple-A experience.
4.5 out of 5